As vice president you can’t waive your immunity, Lawyer tells Osinbajo

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Inibehe Effiong, legal practitioner.

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has been told that he lacks the power to waive the constitutional immunity which he enjoys as privilege attached to his office.

Constitutionally, legal actions cannot be instituted against the president, his vice, state governors alongside their deputy. This is one of the rights they are entitled to for being in office.

Although those holding the above-mentioned positions can be probed, they, however, cannot be prosecuted while in office.

Mr Osinbajo while reacting to corruption allegations levelled against him, stated his readiness to waive away his immunity and allow for proper investigation into the assertion.

Some Nigerians are opining that the vice president lacks power to do so. One of them, a legal practitioner, has said the number two citizen cannot constitutionally waive his immunity while still in office.

“Based on the extant constitutional regime, the Vice President Prof. Osinbajo, cannot waive his immunity,” said Inibehe Effiong.

The lawyer quoted some legal judgement to back up his claim.

“The Supreme Court decided in 2001 in the case of Tinubu v. I. M. B. Securities Plc that the constitutional immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution cannot be waived.

“In the said Tinubu’s case, former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu decided to waive his immunity to defend a civil claim initiated against him. The Supreme Court barred the then gov of Lagos State from proceeding with the suit,” the lawyer added.

Mr Effiong however said the vice president has the right to sue for defamation of character.

“While legal proceedings cannot be initiated against him, the Courts have decided in several cases that immunity does not prevent the beneficiaries from suing for defamation of character. In other words, Prof. Osinbajo can sue but cannot be sued.

“This was the position taken by the Supreme Court in 2007 in the case of Global Excellence Communications Ltd. V. Donald Duke.

“Finally, I wish to state that the immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution does not extern to criminal investigation by law enforcement agencies. This was the position taken by the Supreme Court in 2002 in the celebrated case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. IGP. 

“Provided the investigation does not result in the arrest or detention of the VP or compelling his appearance, he can be investigated,” he added.

The lawyer said he views the decision of the vice president to waive his immunity as political.

“Osinbajo’s statement is political. Immunity does not cover investigation, therefore the question of waiver does not arise in the circumstance,” Effiong said.